The NFL free kick is a rule that not many people know about, and for good reason. A successful NFL free kick has not been made since 1976. However, Yahoo Sports reported on Sept. 27 that the San Francisco 49ers attempted on last night.
In the video, players and coaches walked around, confused at what they could and could not do, as 49ers kicker Phil Dawson came out to attempt the free kick.
The NFL rules state that, if a player fair catches a punt, the team can then attempt a free kick for three points. The kicker can use a holder, there is no snap and no offensive line and the defensive team can not try to block it. Basically, it is identical to watching a kicker warm up before a game.
Players routinely hit 60-plus yard kicks in pre-game warmups, but it is different when there are defenders trying to block it. On a free kick, the kicker just needs to back up, take a running start, and try to boot it through the uprights.
Last time a kicker did this successfully, it was Ray Wersching of the San Diego Chargers in 1968. The last time a team attempted one, it was Neil Rackers in 2008. Wersching's kic was from 45 yards out.
Phil Dawson was trying to kick a 71 yard free kick here. He misses wide right, and by rules, the St. Louis Rams were allowed to return it, but didn't get far and the half ended.
While the NFL free kick failed, it was one of the more obscure NFL rules seen in a while and was exciting while it lasted.